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EditorialWrestlemania I-XXX Series. (2/30)

Wrestlemania I-XXX Series. (2/30)

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This is the second article in the Wrestlemania I-XXX series. For those who missed the first, let me explain what this is all about: 

  • The series is a personal adventure. I will be watching every Wrestlemania PPV from I-XXX and making an article for each one. I will highlight moments I liked, disliked, or found indifference to.
  • I will only give results for the important matches. I hope to spark curiosity among fans, and urge them to watch past Wrestlemania events so they can comment and share their likes/dislikes.

Wrestlemania II (1986)

“The Premier Sporting Event of the Year!”, “What the World is Coming To””

Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum (NY)

Rosemont Horizon (Chicago)

Memorial Sports Arena (LA)

  Wrestlemania II drew 40,085 fans combined across all three venues.

This bizarre PPV was not only held in three separate venues, it was also the only Wrestlemania to be held on a Monday. Each venue had their own commentators, ring announcers, undercard, main event, and army of celebrities. With that said, I will try to separate each venue, and bring them all together for a final conclusion at the end. Before I move on to the matches, I want to use this space to highlight the army of celebrities at Wrestlemania II.

New York – Ray Charles, Cab Calloway, Darryl Dawkins, G. Gordon Liddy, Joan Rivers, Joe Frazier, Lou Duva, Mr. T, Ray Charles, Herb and Susan Saint James.

Chicago – Clara Peller, Dick Butkus, Ed Jones, Ozzy Osbourne, Bill Fralic, Ernie Holmes, Harvey Martin, Jim Covert, Russ Francis, William Perry, and Cathy Lee Crosby

Los Angeles – Ricky Schroder, Robert Conrad, Tommy Lasorda, and Elvira.

Many of the celebrities were used as guest commentators, ring announcers, timekeepers, managers, and as competitors in matches. NFL players competed in the Battle Royal. I only recognized names such as Ray Charles, Joan Rivers, Joe Frazier, Mr. T, Ozzy Osbourne and William Perry.

Wrestlemania II – New York

Vince McMahon made his Wrestlemania début by thanking everyone in attendance. He also welcomed the fans with the classic line “Welcome … to Wrestlemania!!” Ray Charles then gave his rendition of “America The Beautiful”, which was an improvement on the previous Wrestlemania. The commentators for the New York card were Vince McMahon and Susan Saint James. You think current commentary teams are bad? Try listening to Vince and Susan Saint James. Susan was cringing to listen to with some of the comments. It felt like she was a fan who still believed in kayfabe. I was hoping I didn’t need to listen to this duo for the whole show. I felt huge relief when they moved from New York to Chicago, as Gorilla Monsoon took over.

The first match between Paul Orndorff and The Magnificent Muraco was so unbelievably forgettable, I forgot how it ended. And then we were treated to a little dose of “Macho Madness”. The next match was between Randy Savage and George “The Animal” Steele. Miss Elizabeth accompanied Randy Savage to ringside. Randy Savage was the Intercontinental Champion going in. He was playing the heel, and before the match, cut a backstage promo with the belt. Susan Saint James blasted Randy Savage before the match for his treatment of Miss Elizabeth, and she was firmly in the corner of George Steele. She was hoping that Savage would get what was coming to him. Despite George Steele being booked as the babyface, he didn’t receive many cheers from the fans. 

It was a relatively short match which saw the momentum go back-and-forth. George Steele became the first man to kick out of Savage’s elbow drop finish. Randy Savage won the match by rolling him up and using the ropes for leverage. It was interesting to see Randy Savage in this light, an upcoming star in the making.

And then a wild Jake “The Snake” Roberts appeared! In his Wrestlemania début he defeated George Wells in a short match with the “dangerous” DDT maneuver. Susan pointed out how vicious Jake was for dropping Wells on his head. Then the snake came out, and Jake put it on his fallen opponent, and … yeah, George Wells vomited. Susan was horrified. The camera tried to move away from the puking. Was it real? I have no idea. If it wasn’t, it was a horrible thing to ask Wells to do. If it was, then all I can do is feel sorry for Wells.

The first main event was a Boxing match between Roddy Piper and Mr. T. It’s been said before that Piper had legit heat with Mr. T as he was booked to lose the match. But you know what? This boxing match was really good! I was blown away by the intensity. It appeared like both men didn’t care for one another, so what was meant to be a kayfabe boxing match, had many stiff blows. Piper was such an incredible heel, some of the best heel work I have ever seen him do. He took his real hatred and translated that into the match. Mr. T just kept working through it. The first knockdown on Mr. T looked really fake though, it seemed all too obvious that he was taking punishment on purpose so he could take the dive. 

The first round was scrappy, and ended with both men refusing to back away from one another. After the first couple of rounds, the bout picked up in intensity, as both men hit each other quicker and harder. It was almost like a Rocky film bout, which I’m sure they were trying to recreate. Just as I was beginning to get sucked into this kayfabe boxing match, Piper ended it in typical heel fashion. I won’t spoil who won the match. This was one of the highlights of the show., surprising I know!

Wrestlemania II – Chicago

Gorilla Monsoon, Gene Okerlund, and Cathy Lee Crosby commentated this part of the event. Like I said earlier, this was a relief after listening to the team of Vince and Susan. Cathy Lee Crosby expressed how she had “never been to anything like this” in her life on multiple occasions. She appeared out-of-place, but she didn’t talk much compared to Susan. She was more like a first time fan sat at the commentary team, but it was fine as she let Gorilla and Gene call the action.

The first match was a complete squash between the Women’s Champion, The Fabulous Moolah, and her opponent Velvet McIntyre. Moolah had some serious heat, and I think the fans had grown tired of her dominance by this point of her career. The second match between Nikolai Volkoff and Corporal Kirchner was a flag match, and the shortest on the entire card. Just another forgettable match in Chicago.

The event picked up again with a WWE vs NFL (it was still every man for himself) battle royal with the following participants: 

  • (NFL) Jimbo Covert, Bill Fralic, Russ Francis, Ernie Holmes, Harvey Martin and William “The Refrigerator” Perry.
  • (WWF) André the Giant, Ted Arcidi, Tony Atlas, The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart), The Killer Bees (B. Brian Blair and Jim Brunzell), Hillbilly Jim, The Iron Sheik, King Tonga, Pedro Morales, Bruno Sammartino, Danny Spivey and Big John Studd.

The match is likely to have inspired the current André the Giant Memorial Trophy Battle Royal. It included many beefed up wrestlers/footballers going at it. One of the smallest wrestlers in there was a young Bret Hart, making his Wrestlemania début alongside Jim Neidhart. This was before they started wearing pink and black, they were using blue and black instead.

Some of the highlights for me included Bruno Sammartino looking really lost, as he struggled to find other wrestlers to fight. He could be seen wandering around, trying to do things, but constantly being cut off by other participants. William Perry and Big Jon Studd had a feud going, so the fight between them was pretty sweet. Russ Francis also did very well for the NFL side. The coolest part of the match was a fight between The Hart Foundation and André the Giant to decide the winner. I’ll let you guess who won.

And then the main event for Chicago arrived. Probably the best match on the show with good reason. It was the reigning World Tag Team Champions, The Dream Team (Valentine/Beefcake) vs The British Bulldogs. This was the Wrestlemania début for the British Bulldogs, and the crowd in attendance was firmly behind them. 

The match was really good, it could have been better though. I felt The Dream Team lacked chemistry, and lacked a sense of urgency as heel tag team champions. Johnny Valiant was in their corner, but I didn’t notice him much. It was the longest “wrestling” match (the boxing match was slightly longer) on the PPV. It ended in spectacular fashion, as the Bulldogs won their first WWF World Tag Team Championships. 

They received the biggest pop of the night on the three count, it was very well received. Dynamite Kid appeared to loiter on the outside, selling the match and his injuries, as Davey Boy Smith got in the ring to comment. Appearing exhausted, he expressed how happy they were to win the tag team championships, because if they didn’t win they were going to travel back to Europe. He told the fans how the British Bulldogs were here to stay in America. Captain Lou Albano and Ozzy Osbourne were interviewed in the ring as well. They were stoked to see The British Bulldogs win the gold. As a fan from England, this was my favourite moment of Wrestlemania II. And now, moving on to the third and last venue.

Wrestlemania II – Los Angeles

The commentary team changed for the last time to Jesse Ventura, Alfred Hayes, and Elvira. I was surprised by this team, because it was probably the most well-rounded. 

  • You had Ventura making vintage heel comments and winding everyone up.
  • Alfred Hayes calling the matches with his smooth voice. Audible chocolate. 
  • Elvira was showing her epic cleavage off. Sadly we didn’t see enough of it. Umm … yeah. I will say she was a good addition to the commentary team. She was by far the most relaxed and useful guest commentator. Ventura and Elvira sniped negative remarks at each other throughout, which provided some entertainment.

The first match was between Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, and Hercules Hernandez. I like to think it was the best match in the Los Angeles portion of Wrestlemania II. They worked well together, and there was a lot of hard-hitting action from both, and athleticism from Steamboat. This match would decide the number one contender to Randy Savage’s Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship.

And in a match likely forgotten by many, Adrian Adonis (dressed up as a woman, w/ Jimmy Hart), fought Uncle Elmer. The fans hated Adonis, and Elmer received a decent pop on his entrance. Sadly this match can be regarded as the prime example of how useless Uncle Elmer was in the ring  Adonis was over-selling Elmer’s offense like Dolph Ziggler and HBK combined. Elmer just kinda stood there and bounced off him. Adonis managed to work a three-minute match with Elmer. After the early domination by Elmer, and all the over-selling by Adonis, guess who won the match?? Adrian Adonis. The man with long blond hair, make-up, and a pretty pink dress. The match should come with a health hazard warning. This is a low point in Wrestlemania history. I guess they did this deliberately to make the Hogan vs Bundy main event look good..

Wrestlemania II redeemed itself a little by having The Funk Brothers (Terry & Hoss) vs Junkyard Dog and Tito Santana. JYD was over with the fans just like the year before. The match caught me off-guard a bit, as I didn’t expect to see these two teams. It was a pretty average match, clearly better than the previous, but not better than Steamboat vs Hercules. Terry Funk was everywhere, clearly carrying the match and keeping it somewhat entertaining. JYD played to the crowd a bit, and the other two were just kinda there.

The main event of Wrestlemania II was a steel cage match between the WWF Champion Hulk Hogan, and King Kong Bundy. I tried to get invested in the hype and promos, but I found I couldn’t care for it. It was obvious who was going to win, and Bundy, despite his size, didn’t come across like he was ever going to beat Hulkamania. There were some laughs to be had over Bundy’s promo when he claimed “Bundymania” was taking over. I made the comparison on his promo to one of the Big Show’s. They seem to have a similar way of conducting interviews, even down to the facial expressions. 

It was like seeing a cage match between John Cena and The Big Show. Bundy had his moments, but Hogan would inevitably make comebacks. Hogan stopped Bundy from escaping out of the door on multiple occasions. We saw Hogan “hulking up” at one point as well. The match ended as Hogan delivered a big boot, climbed the cage, and escaped. Bundy crawled towards the door, but somehow managed to escape well after Hogan had dropped to the floor. Can’t be sure if Bundy messed it up, or Hogan. The champion celebrated, and the fans loved it. Hulkamania was growing.

Conclusion

I felt the show was weaker to Wrestlemania I, but it managed to deliver something good at each venue. The WM debuts of Randy Savage, Jake Roberts, The Hart Foundation and The British Bulldogs were definite highlights. The low points included the first match, George Wells vomiting, the Women’s Championship match, and Uncle Elmer vs Adrian Adonis. Also the extortionate amount of celebrities mentioned took a lot of time away from the matches. 

Having three separate venues with changing personnel made it feel like a three-part show. Vince and Susan on commentary was laughable. Monsoon carried the second show by himself. Ventura/Hayes/Elvira had the best chemistry. The Chicago card was the best, followed by New York. I enjoyed The New York card better than Los Angeles because of Savage, Roberts, and the Piper/Mr. T fight. The LA card started well, but the other three matches hurt the ending. Overall it was an average event. It was too easy to lose interest, as all three cards had weak moments. Unlike Wrestlemania I, Wrestlemania II was a rollercoaster. You have to be brave to take this one on. Prepare yourself for many celebrity announcements, talking, and short matches. This event may make you appreciate the current WWE product more. They did use the upcoming talent well though (Savage, Roberts, Bulldogs, Harts). This was a breakthrough for many future WWE Hall Of Famers. 

Thanks for reading!

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